Business Lessons from Egypt's #30June Revolution

Egypt's Silver Stars Skywriting Egypt Flag Red, White, Black: Egypt's Military jet contrails over downtown, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt 2013. Taken from the Gizeera Club on Friday morning.
Egypt’s Silver Stars Skywriting Egypt Flag Red, White, Black: Egypt’s Military jet contrails over downtown, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt 2013. Taken from the Gizeera Club on Friday morning.

As the Egyptian Army took control of the country last week, I revisited Nicholas Kristof’s article from February 2011: “What Egypt Can Teach America.”

In the past two and a half years, Egypt’s political system has evolved, but citizens are still struggling with one thing that we take for granted: peaceful transfer of power and basic inalienable rights. When Kristof wrote this article, none of us knew what lay ahead for Egypt.  Writing this Sunday afternoon, I am sure it will take more time before Egypt’s future is clear, but I know this: more people are participating in the process, hopefully peacefully.

The lessons Kristof outlined struck me because they rang true beyond the world of foreign policy.  Just as Egypt is developing many voices to advance democracy, creating leaders, representatives, systems, and processes to function effectively, so too do companies develop many voices to create corporate culture, structure and personnel.

Technology and media give us a window into what is happening throughout the world and we are lucky to be able to apply the lessons from what is happening globally to our own lives.

Here are Kristof’s lessons from Egypt’s revolution and what you can learn from them.

1)”Stop treating Islamic fundamentalism as a bogeyman and allowing it to drive American foreign policy.”

Who is your company’s bogeyman? When it comes to top investors, competitors, and partners is your strategy reactive or proactive? Identify what force in the market is creating fear and brainstorm with your leadership team what steps you can take to step outside of that fear and lead.

2)”We need better intelligence”

How do you gather the information you need to make decisions? What information are you using? As more companies rush to create tools that make Big Data useful, you must strive to embrace new information that is readily available and the interpretations that come along with it. Abhi Rele from Magento recently wrote about how SMBs can leverage Big Data by tracking new customer metrics and streamlining A/B testing.

3)”New technologies have lubricated the mechanisms of revolt.”

People choose the path of least resistance and will engage with whatever new technologies are available to most effectively perform their job. Are you engaging with your employees by giving them the tools they need to do their best work? If you don’t, someone else will.

4)”Let’s live our values”

First, what are your corporate values? Inqune works with companies to identify, disseminate and develop corporate values.  Once you have identified them and shared them publicly with your team, commit to them. When making strategic decisions, it is important to cross-check possible choices with your corporate values.  Making the team consider whether or not a plan is in line with those values reinforces to your entire organization that your company has a meaningful center. One example is Fairphone, out of Amsterdam. Their values of “sharing, opening, positivity, creativity, and access” contribute to creating a human feeling of ‘fairness’ and have driven them to create a phone through a supply chain that reflects these values. Their values are central to their marketing, targeted toward people who want their devices to reflect their moral codes.

#Vulnerability is Trending

Maybe not THIS vulnerable...
Maybe not THIS vulnerable…

Last week, three people told me that the key to success in the current workplace is vulnerability.  These people were unconnected to each other: a client, a partner, and a university professor.  By the third mention, I couldn’t ignore it: vulnerability is trending in the workplace.  Why do we need to learn to be vulnerable to succeed? I have three ideas.

1) Balance. Work life balance is dead, now there is just balance. You are friends with your CEO on Facebook, you participate in office fitness challenges, your family joins you on business trips. Increasingly, companies are looking at people comprehensively. This change is often for for the better, but it limits the information that is considered private: people are more vulnerable at work because they share more personal details with the people in their professional lives.

2) Leaning in is vulnerable.  Sheryl Sandberg’s campaign of books and clubs has created a space for dialogue about what it means to be a woman at work: the struggles, the victories, and the complex considerations. This space is open to all: everyone has struggles, victories and trade-offs, and, as she point out, no one “has it all.” The changing cultural dialogue, spearheaded by Sandberg, is making it okay to talk about those challenges in new, personal ways.

3) It’s a differentiator. Vulnerability in the workplace is in the early adopter phase.  Storytelling is incredibly popular in sales right now: that strategy is successful because stories give people the opportunity to engage emotionally.  Making a true connection involves more than finding out that you went to the same school, it’s sharing that you were passionate about a specific cause there, met your partner there, or experienced a major life change there. Companies that embrace this, from sales to the C-suite, feel different from those doing business-as-usual.

Vulnerability is a double-edged sword and must be wielded carefully.  Beware the desire to bare all or bullshit.  Being vulnerable in the workplace doesn’t mean divulging your deepest darkest secrets: you must avoid making your customer or partner uncomfortable with the dreaded TMI. It also doesn’t mean fabricating a story about your life in an effort to gain respect or trust. It means finding the courage to share your authentic self, even when it would be easier to say ‘the right thing,’ or tell someone what you think they want to hear.

Business is about relationships, and we are sharing more than ever before. Finding the balance between being vulnerable and professional takes skill and practice, and you might make some embarrassing mistakes along the way. But richer relationships at work can lead to better collaborations, surprising insights, improved brand differentiation, and increased customer loyalty. The best part? Feeling that you can be yourself at work might make you happier, too.

Have you found success in exposing your softer side at work? Tell us about it in the comments!


10 Things Sales Team Leaders MUST Do in July

It’s July: hot, sticky, and slow. What’s a sales team leader to do?


By July, your team has forgotten the glory of 2013’s start: the goals, the message, the game plan. But they still need to gear up for the crush of Q3 and Q4, or your targets are going to be burned like last weekend’s burgers.

Here are some great tips on how to make the most of your second half and not get caught flat-footed in 2014.

10. Gather your management team for a 1st half evaluation
Xactly did a great write-up last year about reflecting on Q1 & Q2 to planning for the second half, putting SPIFs in place based on those results to drive additional Q3 & 4 revenue.

9. Recognize your 1st half top performers
Surprise first half leaders with recognition & host a Q & A panel for other reps to ask them for tips and tricks.

8. Highlight top 1st half deal strategies
Which unique deals did you do? Can you do more like them in the second half?

7. Create a sales playbook for your team they can use in the second half
Document what you did in #8 and make sure everyone on your team has it in their hands!

6. Pump your team up for the second half of the year
Will you dye your hair, dress up like your General Counsel, or donate to charity if they hit 200%? Remind them why they are the best team in the industry, that they have the best tools and are unstoppable.

5. Identify the top deals you need to close between now and year end
Where should VPs of sales & sales managers be spending their time? Pick out the deals and hold everyone, including yourself, accountable, by going back to the hit list weekly.

4. Plan your closing events (off-sites, customer visits, conferences)
Make sure you know what needs to happen when to close key deals & get customers to agree to the plan. Dreamforce ( is a huge closing event, if you plan with customers accordingly.

3. Determine which team members are positioned for promotions in early 2014
We often leave career planning to the last minute and it is a huge motivator. Make sure your team knows they should be thinking about their next step and what they need to do to get there.

2. Put incentives in place for pipeline building, you’ll thank yourself in 2014
S-P-I-F! Make sure your reps are incented to build the pipeline. Don’t forget, you are laying the foundation for 2014 & who knows, you might find a deal you can pull into 2013.

1. Start planning your 2014 sales kick-off
Hotel meeting space is being booked now – make sure you don’t miss out! Create a leadership committee to execute on the four buckets of any kick-off: performance recognition, future motivation, team building, and skill & execution training

Need help strategizing your messaging or planning your big sales events? Contact us with the form below or at, and find out how we can help your team sizzle this summer!

How Selling the Cloud is Different

Last Friday, I attended Salesforce’s Company Customer Tour in New York City. Several of our clients had booths, and Silverline was featured on the main stage! It was great to watch them shine.

Salesforce pairs these customer and partner events with recruiting events, so I met several of their candidates throughout the day. I was discussing selling enterprise cloud applications with one confident candidate who remarked, “Cloud? On-premise? I can sell anything, it’s all the same.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Here are four things that you should do differently when selling software for the cloud.

1) Inspire Evangelical Passion

When Marc Benioff founded in 1999 he declared it “The End of Software.” 14 years later, he has over 100,000 customers and 2 million subscribers. While technological change has played a part in enabling that success, the more crucial changes have been cultural: how customers and employees feel about the companies they work with.

Years ago, a close friend in the industry told me, “Something about Salesforce makes you not just want to use it, but to convince others to use it as well.” Successful cloud companies imbue their teams with an evangelical spirit. In their message to customers and in their training of new recruits, they charge people to take to social media and share amazing stories of customer success, product innovation, and job opportunities.

If you can bottle your founders’ passion, vision and spirit, and share that with your growing team, you will be unstoppable.

2) Prioritize Customer Success

The success and growth of cloud companies relies on high customer renewal rates. While on-premise software companies make most of their money upfront, cloud companies’ subscription pricing model spreads the cost of the platform out over the course of the contract. Over time, most of a cloud company’s monthly revenue comes from existing customers; only their marginal growth comes from new subscribers.

In a customer’s first year, as they are getting set up on the tool, customer support and services must be more involved to ensure that customers (and their revenue) renew with the product, providing the fiscal base for company growth. This provides great alignment for customers who don’t want to be forgotten after they sign the contract: they know their satisfaction with the product is key to their vendor because the company needs renewals to drive their business.

Most cloud companies strive for a 90%+ renewal rate. This drives the behavior and compensation of sales and support teams and has driven the creation of strategic customer success teams at most cloud firms.

In the cloud, more than in on-premise software, customer success is required.

3) Embrace Constant Change

In traditional software, releases happen about every eighteen months, with some customers choosing to remain on the legacy platform and others going through months of painful upgrade to the entirely new system. In the cloud, customers are upgraded overnight or in a few minutes, by simply provisioning new features to their existing system. Because of this relative ease, new releases are deployed to customers several times a year.

This constant change means that your sales and services teams must learn to discuss, demonstrate and differentiate both on the release cycle and new platform components. The messaging a cloud software team delivers when speaking to a customer will evolve much more quickly than traditional software because the product will always be changing.

Rapid product change means constant messaging evolution.

4) Play Competitive Wack-a-Mole

The cloud software market and competitive landscape changes constantly. Often, the most crucial part of an enterprise software sale is garnering executive buy-in; in that sphere, the battle against traditional software solutions is especially challenging. Traditional software companies are either poo-pooing the cloud in specific spaces or adopting a “me too” hybrid strategy of cloud and on-premise. To succeed, reps must make sure that executives understand and define ‘cloud’ solutions the way they do.

Differentiating your value proposition from the competitive field, which can be crowded with companies popping up and disappearing quickly, is key to continuing to grow your customer base and feeding your success engine. Cloud competitors can quickly build a user interface and marketing machine, creating a lot of noise, but backing it up with true client success will set you apart from the pack.

In the cloud, focusing on the core value proposition will allow you to shine among constant competitive change.

What else makes the cloud different? Share with us what you think!

Millennials as Raw Materials

Photo by Charline Tetiyevsky
Congratulations, Class of 2013!

You are a part of the Millennial generation, which has managed to either terrify or underwhelm current corporate management, depending on whom you ask. You were born in the decade between the early 80s and the early 90s: I am one of you, though our graduation dates lie a decade apart. And I bring both good and bad news.

First, the bad news. Millennials have the worst unemployment rate in the country, at over 11%. Worse, the deck is stacked against you in particular: 66% of hiring managers are not planning on hiring new graduates this year.

The good news is that, even amid these dire prospects, you’re being smart about the jobs you choose, seeking personal development and career growth. A recent study from UNC’s Keenan Flagger Business School called you “Maximizers,” noting that over half of Millennial respondents reported that career progression made an employer more attractive, while two-thirds said that personal development was the most influential factor in choosing their current job.

Mellennials, the third of employers who are hiring you, rather than those complaining that your educations haven’t prepared you to be the workers they need, are in on a crucial secret. They know that in our service economy, people are the raw materials. These companies have figured out that if they invest in you out of the gate, providing career paths and skill development, they can capitalize on your raw talent and get tremendous returns in employee loyalty, retention, satisfaction, and accompanying productivity. They will have fewer succession worries in decade or two, and they will see immediate benefits as they refuse to let hiring struggles block their growth.

Companies like, Cisco, and Google get it right by hiring people for their potential and then building required skill sets for entry level jobs as well as providing development opportunities for career growth. While I was managing sales onboarding at Salesforce, the success of our sales engine was built on entry-level talent who could be molded into seasoned sales professionals over the course of a few years. Salesforce couldn’t hire experienced cloud sales professionals, because before Salesforce, those professionals did not exist. By necessity, we had to create professional cloud sales teams from scratch.

What do these tech giants have that smaller employers lack? What gives them the confidence to take a risk on Millennial hires even if your skills or experience might not be up to par? A big piece of the puzzle is robust, proven programs for onboarding, training, and mentorship, allowing a hiring culture trusting of the fact that with smart people onboard, anything is possible.

I was inspired to start my company, Inqune, because from the vantage of running onboarding at Salesforce, I saw the challenges smaller organizations face when investing in people development. Start-ups have a hard time competing with the employee investment Fortune 500 companies can make; this makes it hard for them to hire the people they need to grow, and it makes them risk-averse when they do hire.

Again and again, I have watched interesting people start amazing businesses, only to stall because they can’t clone themselves and they need people who already know their particular market niche and specialised skills. I realized that we have the skills and technology to create learning programs that are lean and take minimal resources but produce huge ROI for start-ups. And now, I create and deliver those programs as a consultant.

So here’s the deal, Class of 2013. You keep being ambitious, principled, career-focused. And, here at Inqune, I’ll keep working to give small and mid-sized tech companies the programs they need to hire you with confidence, develop your talent, and drive their revenue growth. It’s the least I can do, really: we Millennials have to stick together.

Related articles:
Millennial unemployment rate reported at over 10%, as high as 12% earlier this year.

66% of hiring managers are not planning on hiring new grads.

Cisco hiring milennials for user experience department.

Why you should be hiring Millennials